Pop is pop. Hip hop is not. No matter which way you slice it, hip hop will never be pop. While it has seemed leaned that way in the last half a decade, I can never see it being pop, and that is part of why it’s so appealing for me. There are different types of hip hop and rap: commercial/mainstream, hardcore, underground, etc. But it’s all hip hop. The fact that it is its own lifestyle and attitude is appealing to me and I take comfort and acceptance in it. I used to be largely into commercial side in my younger years. The Nellys, Lil’ Waynes and Master P’s were in heavy rotation. Now in my 20’s, I am gravitating more and more to the underground side of things. I think this is mainly due to the diversity of talent in the underground, as well as the substance of the content being put forth. The lack of serious competition and the perceived freedom of expression is both refreshing and exciting. The first artist that really drew me away from the commercial lifestyle was Shadrach Kabango, better known as Shad. He has style, substance and lyricism in the pocket. And the craziest thing: he’s Canadian! My immediate thought was, ‘Wow. There are Canadian MC’s?’ It was all very new to me. Discovering Shad’s music led me to gradually unveil other rappers from my country. One of the most talented is Toronto-based rapper D-Sisive. He released a new album in June titled Vaudeville, his third album release to date. To make a long story even longer, I saw a copy of this relatively new release at HMV. Literall, a copy. One copy. That’s it. What do I see beside it but almost an entire row of Drake. Plastic CD cases with Aubrey Drake Graham on the cover, half of which were his “mixtape” — that “saved the rap game” — from last year. D-Sisive’s case is nicely laminated, thick paper, something you would want to buy simply for the look. Such is the reason why it is so saddening, to see evidently unlimited copies of a mixtape that came out over a year ago mercilessly squishing an authentic work of art that is Vaudeville. It is lamentable that this is where the music industry is: flash over flavour, commercial over content. If I had the money right there, I would have scooped it up and saved it from spending another day on the shelf. I know what you’re thinking, “But Dylan, Drake’s Canadian too!” While this is true, Drake is Canadian only by nationality. He doesn’t need a gazillion copies of his mixtape and his album on shelves. D-sisive does! Granted, I like what Drake is doing, I respect it. But he’s a commercial artist on a major (Cash Money). It’s not his fault. But D-sisive is Canadian: Becoming big in Canada, trying to make a name for himself in Canada, apparently not getting much help from outlets in terms of being seen in Canada. There really are no comparisons between these two rappers’ careers. Drake came up as an actor on “Degrassi”, is now a commercial success in the states. D-sisive came up in the Toronto battle scene, where he won respect and gained immense confidence. Why record stores feel like they need to promote that over homegrown talent is absolutely baffling. I dunno, maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe before I got to the store, a D-sisive fan went in and bought up 9 copies of the CD and left one on the shelf. But we’ll never know.
Dear HMV – Canadian division: please be respectable to your national artists. They are the ones that didn’t sell out, didn’t move to the states and want to turn this country into a viable market to make a decent living. You are preventing that from happening by disporportionately whoring yourself out to commercial and mainstream interests. Instead of these artists being a beacon of light for attention and inspiration, they are merely an afterthought. Come on. Start supporting. Without your help it is a lot harder to get the word out, as you are currently one of the biggest sources of music in the nation. Oh, and if you can play Santa and give me a gift card so I can buy up the only D-sisive CD on your shelf, that would be wicked. At least tell my girlfriend that I want one. Thanks.